Canterbury, New Zealand
Now, should you be in Christchurch and decide to gravitate around to the harbour at Lyttelton, there's an interesting, though not unique, bit of history on a high point overlooking the bay. It's called a time ball and its purpose goes back to the days of the sailing ships when, in harbours around the world, at just before one o'clock, this large round object used to be cranked in an upward direction and then dropped on the hour.
The captains of ships in the harbour would then set their chronometers by this very act and thus know their timepieces were correct..........until the next time they checked!
Near to Lyttelton, Godley Head walkway is accessible from Taylors Mistake or from two car parks along the Summit Road on Godley Head. You can drive to Taylors Mistake from Sumner through the suburb of Scarborough. Evans Pass Road behind Sumner crosses the Summit Road at Evans Pass. The Godley Head car park is 6km east of here. The Christchurch #3 (Sumner/Mt Pleasant) bus runs to Sumner; this is the nearest approach of public transport.
The track takes in the military defence structures that remain from World War II. The coastal defences were never needed and the area was later used for training purposes. From the car park at Godley Head, the original army track zigzags down towards Mechanics Bay. A track leads to a 110m tunnel accessing the site of searchlight emplacements, with dramatic views. Back on the loop track you climb back to the car park, past the shells of old buildings (generator shed, battery plotting room and mini range). Underground kitchens are only visible as steel hatches and chimneys amongst the grasses.
On the main West Coast Road before you get to Arthurs Pass is located Castle Hill and its associated limestone outcroppings. Hidden amongst the limestone outcrops are traces of 500-year old charcoal drawings. Tradition says these drawings were left behind by Waitaha, the first people to shelter here on their travels through this landscape.
Subsequent movements through here by first Ngati Mamoe then later Ngai Tahu (who both came from Aotearoa - the North Island) absorbed the original people of the South Island (Te Wai Pounamu).
The rocks themselves are typical limestone with many varied shapes created by many years of water erosion. They really are fascinating to climb around in search of hidden drawings and maybe ancient treasures........
Arthur’s Pass township is central to many off the beaten path activities with tramping (hiking) a key activity. Arthur’s Pass National Park has many great tracks and is also home to a key phase of the Coast to Coast multi-sport race run on Waitangi weekend (around 6 February). The park straddles the main divide of the Southern Alps and lies on the Christchurch/West Coast highway.
The visitor centre has details and maps to help you choose your route and activity. There are a range of day walks from 1 to 8 hours including the impressive Devil’s Punchbowl Falls (in the photo), Upper Bealey Valley Track and Temple Basin.
Multi-day trips using alpine huts provide access to some great walks over the Goat, Harman or Harpers passes. Make sure you log your trip with the park Ranger first though.
The sub-alpine forest is fascinating with trees often covered with mosses, lichens and liverworts. There is a striking contrast between the forests within the park. The higher rainfall on the West Coast side of the main divide supports more complex podocarp forest, while the east is almost exclusively mountain beech. The park is characterised by wide braided rivers such as the Waimakariri to the south and the Otira and Taramakau to the north.
Watch out for the Kea, an alpine parrot that can create havoc pecking at tramper’s packs and equipment.